Living your best outdoor life – on a budget

Living your best outdoor life on a budget

When the great British weather starts to improve in May, it’s the perfect time for making the most of outdoor life on a budget. This usually means hanging out in the back garden, on a patio or deck, or maybe out on a balcony.

For me, making the most of the outdoor space starts with sprucing everything up, ideally without harming the environment. It’s much more cost effective to make the most of what you already have, whether that’s cleaning, mending or upcycling, so let’s focus on those activities.

My May outdoor living to-do list

There are plenty of things to do around this time of year, and I tend to tackle them in this order:

  • Tidying up messy spaces
  • Deep cleaning
  • Treating and protecting surfaces
  • Furniture care (or replacement)
  • Making things prettier or more stylish

Tidying up makes all the other jobs much easier, and there’s something quite cathartic about having a good old chuck out. Get rid of anything that you no longer want or use, especially if it’s broken beyond repair.

That might include a trip to the tip, getting a council collection for smaller items, breaking things down and putting them in a recycling bin, selling stuff, or giving things away on your local Facebook group or via Freecycle, Freegle or Trash Nothing. We’ve done a combination of using the recycling bin and local Facebook giveaways.

I’ve also made time to sweep up fallen leaves, pull up weeds, and get them into a compost bin. If you have a larger garden, you might also want to make some leafmould for mulching plants later in the year – easy RHS instructions here. If you don’t have a compost bin, check with your council about garden waste collection.

Broken plant pots can be cracked up into smaller pieces to make crocks, giving your plants in containers easier drainage. It also seems to stop so much compost falling out of the holes at the bottom of the pots.

Deep cleaning patios, paths & decks

Garden path with fallen magnolia petals and weeds between the stones

One of the easiest things to do here is use a pressure washer. You can buy one on offer, rent one for the day from a well-known company such as Jewson, or perhaps borrow one from a neighbour (and maybe give them something in return e.g. loan them a lawnmower, or give them a cake or bottle of wine).

Stubborn weeds and moss on paths can be removed with a good cheap weed knife or patio scraper. It’s also remarkable how much you can get rid of just by pouring some boiling water straight onto the roots, then waiting for a few hours. You don’t need to harm wildlife with harsh chemicals.

If there are still marks and stains remaining after this, a quick scrub with some distilled vinegar and a stiff brush will often do the trick. For anything stubborn I recommend using Algon Organic path & patio cleaner, which is stronger, but please keep pets and children away while you’re using it, and remember to rinse things down properly afterwards.

fixing up wooden decking in the Spring

For woodwork problems, you might need to use a proprietary treatment to clear up mould or fungus, and some sealant or decking oil after that. I tend to pick up something at B&Q to clean & treat then seal or stain, and they have eco-friendly options in stock.

Outdoor life on a budget: furniture care

garden furniture on a patio that needs a clean

If, unlike me, you were sensible and put your outdoor furniture away in a shed or the garage at the end of last year, you might not need to do anything to it other than a quick wipe down with a lightly dampened cloth.

Unfortunately our outdoor dining table is too big to go in our shed, so it’s been outside for months under a cover. This means I’ll have to peel back the cover and see what’s lurking underneath, and then probably give the table a good scrub and a repaint.

It’s an old piece of wooden furniture, but we’ve upcycled it with some coloured outdoor paint. It’s very easy to quickly sand back any flaking areas and give those chairs, tables or benches a coat or two.

We used Cuprinol Garden Shades matt multi-surface exterior wood paint for a splash of colour in our outdoor dining area. There’s a shade for just about every personality and taste, whether you’re going for a bold or natural look.

The matching chairs fortunately did fit in the shed, so they’re in much better condition and won’t need to be repainted. They’ve already come up fine with a quick dust. Phew.

Next, making outdoor spaces pretty / stylish

The final part of our Golightly Gardens outdoor living glow up will be making everything pretty. That’s going to include:

  • Potted and hanging plants
  • Chair cushions, ideally rainproof
  • Outdoor beanbag or floor cushions
  • Blankets and throws
  • Outdoor lighting
  • Rugs or matting
  • Ornaments
  • Outdoor dining accessories

I’ll be bringing you some trending outdoor living accessories in the next article, to get us all inspired to make the most of those summery days and evenings.

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Hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide to sprucing up those outdoor living spaces on a budget!

Which jobs are you going to tackle first?

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